Various reports across the internet indicate that the Atlanta Falcons appear to be the leading candidates to land a pair of impending free agents in Washington Redskins outside linebacker Brian Orakpo and Houston Texans outside linebacker Brooks Reed. Dianna Russini of NBC 4 Washington reports that the Falcons are “front-runners” to sign Orakpo. Yahoo! Sports’ Rand Getlin reports that Reed is leaning towards signing with the Falcons, while John McClain of the Houston Chronicle indicates that Falcons are among five teams pursuing Reed alongside the Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bears, New York Jets and Oakland Raiders. Both players are set to become unrestricted free agents on Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern time. Currently, the Falcons and other teams can talk with impending free agents during the league’s “legal tampering period.”
Both players would potentially help improve a Falcons pass rush that was tied for 30th in the NFL last season with just 22 sacks.
Orakpo, 28, is coming off a career-low year in which he recorded just 0.5 sacks in seven games, after tallying 39.5 sacks over the previous five years. Orakpo has dealt with the injury bug the past few years, having torn both his pectoral muscles a total of three times. He missed the last nine games of 2014 with a torn right pectoral after tearing his left pectoral in the season finale in 2011 and again to start the year in 2012, missing the final 14 games that year. Orakpo did bounce back to appear in 15 games in 2013, recording 10 sacks.
Orakpo has spent the past four years playing outside linebacker in the Redskins’ 3-4 scheme. With the Falcons, he would presumably return to playing defensive end, the position that he played in college at Texas. Originally a first-round pick in 2009, Orakpo burst on the scene with a career-high 11 sacks as a rookie while playing outside linebacker on early downs and putting his hand in the dirt as a defensive end in passing situations. Orakpo worked with current Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan (2010-13) and assistant head coach Raheem Morris (2012-14) when both were assistants with the Redskins.
Reed, 28, was a second-round pick of the Texans in 2011 out of Arizona. As a rookie, he started 11 games as a replacement for an injured Mario Williams and finished the year with a career-high six sacks. However since then, Reed has yet to eclipse more than three sacks, a total he had both in 2013 and 2014. Reed has found a home as an outside linebacker in the Texans’ 3-4 scheme the past four seasons. Known as a solid run-defender, Reed would presumably remain at outside linebacker in Atlanta and potentially become the starter at strong-side linebacker, a position formerly held by Kroy Biermann, who is also set to become a free agent tomorrow.
Reed was targeted by the Falcons leading up to the 2011 draft.